Q: Why are there Cleveland Water Department charges (water assessments) on my property tax bill?
A: In Ohio there is a law that allows a municipal water department, like Cleveland Water, to assess delinquent water bills as a property tax lien, which will appear on a homeowner’s property tax bill.
Q: What does it mean that Cleveland Water can place a lien on my property tax?
A: Cleveland Water can take the total amount due on the unpaid water account and send that amount to the Cuyahoga County Treasurer to place as an assessment on the property tax bill, which will cause your property tax bill to increase. When you pay your property tax bill, some of that money will be sent to Cleveland Water to pay off your unpaid account.
Q: How does Cleveland Water choose which delinquent accounts get assessed as a property tax lien?
A: Cleveland Water’s policy is that customers who have had their water service disconnected and have an outstanding balance of at least $300 for longer than 180 days are eligible to have those outstanding balances placed as a lien on their county property taxes.
Q: Do all eligible accounts automatically have their balances placed as property tax liens?
A: No, there are typically thousands of accounts that are eligible to be assessed on property taxes, but have not been sent to the Treasurer. However, Cleveland Water has more regularly been assessing delinquent accounts as property tax liens since 2016.
Q: Does Cleveland Water only place delinquent accounts as property tax liens when the water service has been shut off? Or will Cleveland Water assess tax liens for accounts that also remain in active service?
A: Cleveland Water’s practice is to only assess liens for accounts after all other collection options (including disconnection) have been exhausted. One exception to that policy is when a renter (a tenant) has signed a Tenant Deposit Agreement with Cleveland Water, which requires the renter to take responsibility for paying their own water bill going forward, but will not make the renter responsible for the past due water bill owed by the homeowner. In that case, Cleveland Water may place the lien on the homeowner’s (landlord’s) property taxes and keep service continued, so that the tenant can continue to have water.
Q: If I am a renter who wants to pay my own water bill, how do I go about getting a Tenant Deposit Agreement in place?
A: Go to Cleveland Water’s Customer Service Center (1201 Lakeside Ave.) and bring a copy of your lease agreement and photo identification. You will be asked to pay a deposit when you sign the agreement.
Q: Do property owners receive notice that their delinquent water bill will be assessed as a property tax lien? If so, when does the notice get delivered?
A: Cleveland Water’s policy is to notify property owners in writing prior to assessing the lien. The notice is sent by U.S. Post Office First Class Mail at least 120 days before the lien is assessed. In addition, Cleveland Water sends a final notice 30 days before the lien is assessed.
Q: Other than paying the entire balance due, is there any other way a property owner can get the service reconnected and avoid a tax lien after receiving a notice that Cleveland Water plans to place the lien?
A: The County Treasurer only permits Cleveland Water to place liens twice a year- September and March. To avoid the lien, customers must make an initial lump sum payment (typically about 25% of the amount owed) and enter into a payment plan for the remaining balance. Once the customer is on a payment plan, Cleveland Water will reconnect service, and if a lien has been placed, it will be withdrawn.
For information about Cleveland Water Department shut-offs and Water Review Board hearings, Click here.